18 May 2008

Water (Heater) Woes...part 1

Whew, this last week has been a crazy one. This past Wednesday night two supercell thunderstorms rolled into town for a little visit. Texas thunderstorms are pretty amazing, nothing like the wimpy showers in Seattle. Thankfully, we were able to avoid the wrath of the first one, but weren't so fortunate for the second. We lost power around 1 am, Thursday morning. By this time, we were all wide awake, due to the continuous thunder. Thankfully Benjamin was able to go back to sleep easily, and I was able to enjoy the lightning show, but Vanessa was a little worried about possible tornadoes. After about 20 minutes, the storm died down a bit and we were able to go back to sleep, although with no A/C, things were a bit stuffy.

We wake up around 8am, still without electricity. I decide to call Austin Energy to report the outage and to see if they have any idea when it might come back on. The AE rep tells me to try and reset the breaker, so I head downstairs to the kitchen, where the breakerbox is located. I come down the stairs and as I am about to enter the kitchen, I step into a pool of water. No bueno. I let out an audible "oh no!" that almost results in Vanessa having a panic attack. She comes downstairs and asks me what is wrong. Turns out our water heater must have gotten frightened by the intensity of the storm, for it had leaked all over our kitchen, dining room, and downstairs bedroom. The photo below is not my water heater. If only...

I immediately shut off the water supply, and come to realize besides having no power, we now also have no water. No bueno. But surely, the electricity would come back soon, right?

Thankfully, Benjamin had his Mothers Morning out on Thursday, so Vanessa took him out to breakfast and dropped him off, while I proceeded to try and figure out our next plan of action. I called my friend Manuel who lives close by and asked to borrow his wet vac to remove the standing water. After I pick it up, it dawns on me that without power, the wet-vac is about as useless as my neighbor's Chinese-crested hairless dog. I then decide I should call a plumber to come check out the water heater to see what needed to be done. He shows up around 10 o'clock, and tells me we need a new water heater, and to purchase it, install it, and bring it all up to code, would cost $986. It was now my turn to have a panic attack. I called my father-in-law who works selling plumbing supplies to contractors and asked him what he thought of the price. He told me he sells his water heaters for $170 at cost, and that if I ended up paying that much for the water heater to be installed, he would have to ask for a divorce from me being his son-in-law. Those might not have been his exact words, but I got the gist. I then turned to Mr. Plumber, thanked him for coming out, but told him that I still wanted to have a happy relationship with the in-laws, and that we wouldn't be able to use his services...

Not longer after he left, Vanessa returned with breakfast tacos, and we decide to head to Home Depot to check out the prices there. As we strolled down the aisle holding hands, I was thankful to the Lord that He provided me with such a wonderful partner and friend...sniff sniff. Okay, so we found a water heater priced at $280, and decided to have it installed through Home Depot as well. We are now proud owners of a 12 month no interest Home Depot credit card, yippee. The nice lady at the counter let us also charge our almost-dead cell phones while we waited for our new card to be charged. The cost of installation was going to be $225 if nothing else needed to be fixed, which most definitely was not going to be the case for our late 70's era townhouse. After getting our cell phones working again, we called a neighbor to see if the power was back on yet. No dice, so we headed off to a coffee shop to try and get me some internet access so I could do some work. Unfortunately, I couldn't concentrate too well, and Vanessa was hungry, so we headed to old faithful Chipotle, and had a quick lunch before heading off to pick up Benjamin from his school at 2pm. We were faced with a slight dilemma, since there was still no power and no water, we didn't want to take Benjamin back home. Then I remembered one of Vanessa's good friend's lived close-by and needed her router fixed. Vanessa called her, and she told us to come on over. Melanie graciously allowed us to hang out there while we waited to hear from the Home Depot plumber. Melanie makes some pretty cool stamps, and turns out her husband Paul is pretty skilled as well - Benjamin had a blast playing with Jonathan and William on the cool jungle gym that Paul built a few years back -

Where was I when those oh so useful handyman skills were being passed out? Oh yeah, that's right, glued to the tv, playing Nintendo...sigh. But before I get sidetracked even more, back to the story...

I get a phone call that the installation crew is on their way to our house, so I jump in the car and head over to meet them, leaving Vanessa and Benjamin with Melanie and the boys. On the way home, I call Austin Energy to get an update. The nice lady I talk to tells me that we won't be getting our electricity back Thursday, worst case scenario not until Saturday. When I pull into the house, I realize that she was right. Still no juice. The installation crew gets there not too long afterwards, two young guys in their twenties, who seem like they belong in one of those Partnerships for a Drug Free America commercials. They proceed to tell me that it would be best if the electricity was working so they would be able to test out the water heater after they installed it. I couldn't argue with that, and told them I would reschedule. As they were pulling out, I heard one of them shout out, "We're done early! Yeah, baby!" I was glad at least someone was getting some satisfaction out of this entire debaucle. . I headed back to Paul and Melanie's to pick up my family. Paul had gotten home by this time and we started talking. I told him what happened and he told me there's no way I should have to pay that much for installation. He then offers to come over on Saturday to help me install the water heater. I am touched by his offer and quickly accept before he can come to his senses. By this time, Vanessa and I have decided it would be best if she and Benjamin headed to her parents for the next couple of days while I try to get the house back to normal. We thanked Paul and Melanie for being gracious hosts and headed home, where Vanessa quickly packed up, fed Benjamin dinner, and hit the road. I then decided it was time for some decompression and went to go play basketball with some friends. Then we all went to Pluckers and watched the Spurs stomp the Hornets in game 6, and suddenly, everything was better. I ended up staying the night at some friends (thanks Allen & Kristen!) since our house was still without electricity at 11 pm, and for all I knew, it wouldn't be back until Saturday. When I woke up Friday morning, I called Manuel and discovered that the power had come back on at 1am. Can you believe it, I survived a whole 24 hours without water and electricity! Yeah, boy! I am a survivor! Is that all you got? Come on, how about a real challenge? Bring on the living dead! (of course, I am being facetious. I am no MacGyver, I have never watched Man vs Wild, and if I were in an airplane crash in the Andes, there's no doubt in my mind that I would be the first survivor to be eaten by my fellow passengers.)

Part 2 coming soon, in which Sam watches in awe as Paul installs a water heater. Seriously, there is no way I would have known how to do that by myself. Guess that's what I get for spending my formative years with a fake plumber.


  1. Sam, this is so well-chronicled; I can't wait for Part Deux. :-) Welcome to the Society of Homeowners with Disaster Stories.

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  3. wow. lord jesus. I'm glad you guys made it to cleveland in one piece. okay yeah I know I'm reading this like a month later but I'm slow. and where's part dos?

    oh, and I hate this word verification crap! I always mess up!!

  4. It's good that there's someone who offered you a helping hand in installing that new water heater you bought. You can always ask your family or your friends if they have experience. If there really isn't anyone who can help, there are always experts ready to rush to your aid.

  5. Samuel, why can't I view the photo of the water heater you were talking about? =( I would've compared it to my friend's. Anyway, the link of the fake plumber at the end of your post piqued my interest… I just couldn't view it too.

  6. I couldn't view it either, Jasmin. The photo might not have been uploaded properly. Anyway, it's been 4 years, Samuel. The water heater you bought was kind of cheap and so was price of the installation. So, how did it go? Did the plumbers install it right? Hopefully, you haven't experienced any leaks up until now. :)